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February 2011 Archives

February 3, 2011

President Obama Launches Better Buildings Initiative

On February 3rd, President Obama launched the Better Buildings Initiative, which is intended to make commercial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade by catalyzing private sector investment through a series of incentives to upgrade offices, stores, schools and other municipal buildings, universities, hospitals, and other commercial buildings. In addition to conserving energy, the initiative is designed to reduce energy bills for businesses by about $40 billion annually.

The initiative has five components:

1) Create a more effective tax incentive for building owners who want to do energy efficiency upgrades. The existing tax deduction, known as 179(d), provides a deduction for businesses that upgrade their facilities. This would be changed in two ways. First, the deduction would be changed to a credit. Second, the credit would be structured to reward companies for performance improvements, so the credit amount would be based on the actual energy improvements made in a specific building. According to the Administration, these changes could result in a ten-fold increase in commercial retrofits.

2) Increase access to financing for building owners looking to make investments in energy retrofits. The Small Business Administration will deploy the new tools that it received under the Small Business Jobs Act to encourage energy retrofit lending for small businesses. In addition, the Department of Energy will launch a pilot program to provide loan guarantees for projects to upgrade hospitals, schools, and other commercial buildings.

3) Launch of a "Race to Green" competitive grant program. The President's budget will propose new competitive grants to states and/or local governments that streamline standards, encouraging upgrades and attracting private sector investment.

4) Launch of a Building Construction Technology Extension Partnership. This partnership will seek to train the next generation of commercial building technology workers and will be comprised of a training program and tools for new jobs in this area, such as energy auditing and building operations.

5) Launch of a Better Building Challenge. This challenge will encourage the private sector to upgrade their facilities and make investments that will decrease their energy use and create jobs. Partners will commit to a series of actions to make their facilities more efficient, and will in turn become eligible for benefits including public recognition, technical assistance, and best-practices sharing through a network of peers.

February 11, 2011

EPA Investigation of Gowanus Canal Finds Widespread Presence of Pollutants

On February 2, 3011, EPA Region 2 announced that its investigation of the Gowanus Canal superfund site in New York City has confirmed the widespread presence of more than a dozen pollutants.

Contaminants found at high levels in sediment include polychlorinated biphenyls ( PCBs ), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ( PAHs ), mercury, lead, copper, and other metals. PAHs and metals were also found in canal water.

In its report, EPA stated that its investigation began before the Brooklyn waterway was declared a superfund site in 2010. The site, which housed industrial operations for many years, was added to superfund's National Priorities List in March 2010. A companion human and ecological risk assessment found that exposure to the contaminants in the canal poses threats to people's health and the environment. The ecological risk assessment by the agency showed that organisms living in canal sediment could be at risk, primarily from PAHs but also from PCBs and metals. Ducks may be threatened by exposure to PAHs in sediment, and heron could be at risk from eating contaminated fish.

The investigation also confirmed that the contamination has a combination of historical and continuing sources. EPA stated that it will use the investigation's findings in a feasibility study outlining cleanup options, to be completed as a draft assessment by the end of 2011.

The probe included more than 500 sediment samples, 80 water samples, and collection of more than 200 fish, including striped bass, eel, white perch, and blue crab. Ground water and soil monitoring consisted of 88 wells installed along the canal.

According to EPA, it has sent 11 letters to potential responsible parties about their possible liability. These parties include New York City, Consolidated Edison, Honeywell International, Inc., and the U.S. Navy.

February 24, 2011

DEC Reaches Settlement with Smelting and Recycling Facility in Middletown

On February 23, 2011, DEC announced that it had entered into a settlement with Revere Smelting and Refining Corporation and Eco-Bat New York LLC, companies which own and operate a lead smelting and battery recycling facility in the Town of Middletown.

The battery recycling operation by Revere has been in existence since 1972, and the facility is one of the largest recyclers of automobile and other vehicle batteries in the Northeast United States. The Order resolves an enforcement proceeding initiated by DEC after several investigations of the facility in 2009 and 2010 revealed violations of spills reporting and response requirements. The enforcement proceeding also involved continuing treatment and containment of hazardous waste at the facility and an ongoing remedial program to address contamination. The Consent Order requires upgrades to the containment building at the facility to prevent future harm to the environment, and remediation of certain properties impacted by the smelting and recycling operations.

The settlement specifically requires Revere and Eco-Bat to perform the following actions: (1) construct a new liner floor system for the containment building where battery recycling occurs, which will prevent future releases of hazardous waste to the environment; (2) undertake a study of the contamination in the areas where battery recycling is conducted, to identify the steps which will need to be taken to ensure that the contamination from operations will be properly addressed when the facility is closed; (3) post a financial guarantee once DEC approves a closure plan for the facility; (4) remediate the remainder of the inactive hazardous waste disposal site in accordance with a remedy which DEC issues for this property; (5) construct a parking area for the storage of trailers containing lead acid batteries prior to processing, which will contain any spills from these trailers; (6) pay a $150,000 penalty; and (7) complete a DEC-approved project to benefit the environment with a value of $300,000.

About February 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Envirosphere in February 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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